/ Articles / Mercer girls’ basketball improve throughout season
In a rebound season, the Mercer girls’ basketball team showed how important leadership and team chemistry can be, all accumulating to a season full of fun moments.
The Tigers finished tied for fifth in the Indianhead conference with Ironwood at 12-11 overall, 8-8 in conference.
“We finished about where we should have finished,” coach Vic Saeger said. “I was really happy we played hard.”
After winning just three games in the 2018-19 season, the Tigers came back to win 12 this year. It all started with their seniors.
“We started out 3-1 this season and winning can be contagious,” Saeger said.
Zoe Botes led the team in points with 13.4, but averaged nearly 17 per game in conference contests. One of the better post players in the Indianhead, Botes was named second team all-conference.
“She plays pretty solid defense, she had the least amount of turnovers on the team and all around a really solid player for us,” Saeger said.
Ella Torkelson was named honorable mention all-conference. Not only was she a top defender, but Torkelson led the team with 71 assists while scoring 8.5 points per game and grabbing 85 rebounds.
“She’s quick, got quickness, she works really hard, doesn’t take any breaks on defense,” Saeger said. “She got some big games, our leading 3-point shooter and also led the team in assists.”
One girl who can do it all is Jessica Klopatek. She averaged 2.4 points per game, recorded 103 rebounds, 57 assists and 13 steals.
“She’s the best passer, really smart, she’s kind of a jack-of-all trades,” Saeger said. “Sometimes she’ll bring the ball up, decent ball handling skills, play in post opposite Zoe. She can shoot, led the team in field goal percentage.”
Aubrey Schoeneman paired well with Botes in the paint. She averaged 3.3 points per game with 81 rebounds and 12 blocks. The blocks were the most on the team.
“Aubrey helped us in a lot of situations, a key player,” Saeger said. “Her athleticism helped us at times.”
Another top 3-point shooter was junior Ava Barton. She averaged 9.4 points per game and led the team with 36 steals. She shot nearly 40% from inside the arc and was second with 23 made 3-pointers.
“She’s got some quickness, solid defense, she takes the ball to the basket and is probably our best driver,” Saeger said. “Just a real solid player, hard player to take off the floor.”
Other junior Molly Hohner impacted the game in many ways. She scored just 2.6 points per game, but had 74 rebounds and 34 assists. She was fourth on the team with 24 steals and played solid defense.
“She made some key baskets for us at different times, kind of earned herself a starting position,” Saeger said. “The five-six last games a starter for us and earned that with hard work and being a leader.”
A freshman who provided a spark off the bench was KD Knipp. She averaged 6.4 points per game and was second with 35 steals. Her and Barton would often form the tough tandem in coach Saeger’s diamond press. Knipp shot 41.7% from inside the arc.
“Got a lot of steals in the press and as the season went on, became a better and better defender, a competitive personality,” Saeger said.
Off to the races
The Tigers got off to a great 3-1 start, which included wins over Lac Court Oreilles, Bayfield and Solon Springs. The Bayfield win was especially impressive.
Down 26-12 at halftime on Dec. 10, 2019, the Tigers stormed back for 46 second half points to beat Bayfield 58-48. Barton led the team with 19 points to give the Tigers their first conference win. The boys also won that same day for a home doubleheader sweep.
Best for last
Another season stretch of victories came Feb. 3-8, where they defeated Washburn, Butternut and Washington Island. They were 3-0 to start the month of February.
Of that stretch, the game against Washington Island on Feb. 8 was a highlight. The Tigers hosted Washington Island, a team which took a ferry to get to the mainland before driving all the way to Mercer. In a fun game that was official, the Tigers won 47-32. All players got to be involved and the teams even did a couple fun scrimmages later in the evening.
Much like the boys, the girls got a big win late in the season at home, a game that was a little bit of an upset for the Tigers. The girls defeated Ironwood 45-40 on Feb. 20, the regular season finale.
“First time we beat a team that probably should have beat us. Probably biggest win of the season,” Saeger said.
The second half of the season proved to be their best play. They played tighter games against Hurley and Drummond and won five games in the month of February.
“The second half we were in every single game, even Hurley down by four at half,” Saeger said.
Their season ended abruptly after a loss to Frederic in regional play. As the No. 9 seed, the Tigers had to drive over three hours to play Frederic, who won 45-43 in overtime. Nevertheless, it was a season to remember.
“Not a way we wanted our season to end. We almost beat a team rated higher than us, almost beat them when we didn’t play a very good game that game,” Saeger said. “The whole second half of season we were in every single game and had an opportunity to win every single game.”